Contributing writer Cynthia Kane submitted this post as a Reader Submission for Gurl. We love hearing your stories! If you’d like to submit your writing to Gurl, please send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
My ex-boyfriend and I met a long time ago, but we didn’t start actually dating until four years after when we randomly met somewhere. I heard someone say my name and even though it had been four years since we had seen each other, when I turned I knew exactly who he was. He had been on my list of crushes I wanted to date, but hadn’t.
Our relationship started like most relationships do. We exchanged numbers, talked on the phone, flirted, had fun together, traveled together. Even though things were going really well, I didn’t really focus on who he was as a person – I had made him into more of a fantasy in my head. He was the antidote to my insecurities. And because I thought he could heal me and make my world a better place, I ignored the fact that he wasn’t right for me.
Although I knew I wanted to be in a serious relationship with him, he was happy just having fun and being casual. Instead of stopping things then, like I should have, I went along with it. I pretended to be fine with a more casual relationship and didn’t listen to my wants or needs, only focusing on his. I took his thoughts and feelings seriously, but didn’t consider my own.
After a few months, he finally asked me to be his girlfriend. Pretty soon, that first flag I never raised kept waving its colors over and over again. If I were late to meet him, he would get angry with me, telling me I was selfish and disrespectful, that I obviously didn’t care about him or take his needs into consideration. He refused to be intimate with me if I hadn’t shaved my legs. He would tell me I just didn’t get him or that I never knew how to make him laugh. He flew off the handle at me for silly things, like if a work call lasted longer than expected, saying that I put work before him. He would say mean things, like “you’re not even that smart or pretty. Good luck finding a guy who will respect you.”
Although most girls in this situation would have left their partner, I stayed. I tried to convince him that I wasn’t what he thought I was. I couldn’t understand how he could see me this way and I wanted to prove him wrong. But the more I tried, the worse things got. And soon, I gently turned a blind eye to him yelling at me or erasing text messages where he would tell me to “f*** off.” I knew on a deeper level that none of this was right, but I refused to give up the fantasy in my head of the loving and caring relationship I wanted to have with him.
Pretty soon, my friends started noticing a change in me. I wasn’t as talkative as I had been and I had gained weight. I would jump when he called or leave where I was to make sure I was home he got there. They mentioned I sounded strange when I would pick up the phone while he was around and noted that the only times I felt comfortable talking to them was when he was out.
Anytime anyone said something to me about it, I got defensive, constantly making excuses for him, justifying why things were the way they were. We would go through a really rough time and then we would do something fun and different and everything seemed great again. When it just the two of us, everything was fine, but when other people got involved, that’s when things would come to their breaking point.
I was tired, beat down and flat-out empty. Everything in my life revolved around him, there was no me left. I wanted to feel good and healthy. I wanted to laugh and smile in a relationship and feel lighter, but instead I was curled up in the fetal position listening to depressing music, venting to my friends about not being able to do anything right or worse, seeing other couples and wishing I had what they had.
One night, he accused me of not caring about him or being on his side. I tried to convince him otherwise and by doing so, it made things worse. He said, “I don’t even know if I want to be with you anymore.” It was at that moment when the idea of separation triggered so much anxiety that the next day, I couldn’t even eat. I was nauseous and weak. To relax, I took a warm shower, but the heat made me feel weird. I walked into the kitchen for a glass of water and fainted.
When I came to on the kitchen floor, I saw glass shattered around me. At that moment, I knew I could no longer pretend away the truth – I was in an abusive relationship and I had to end it.
I took a time out from my love life and learned what felt good to me. I listened to my feelings and took care of my own needs. I started to rely on myself more, taking responsibility for myself, which meant I no longer wanted to pretend, but wanted to see clearly. I knew I needed to decide what worked best for me. I started becoming a priority in my life.
This all happened about two years ago and since I started taking care of myself, it’s been a lot easier to spot a wrong relationship from the beginning. It’s easier because now I like myself enough to want to take care of myself. I now know that my feelings and myself should be taken seriously and respected. I deserve better than the abusive relationship I was in.
Have you ever been in an abusive relationship like this one? How did you realize it was the wrong relationship? Tell us in the comments.